Honey and camomile – my new bedtime beverage before I drift off to sleep on my duck down pillows, which are incidentally my favourite kind of pillow, regardless of how unhygienic and allergy causing it supposedly is.
Here’s my sketch of my vision of what I think my cupcake should look like. Apologies for my drawing skills – drawing was never my strong suit.
Also, on a side note – I would like to tell you that all was not fine and dandy in the kitchen when I attempted this recipe. I photographed my egg disaster:
Tip of the day : Make sure all utensils are absolutely spotless before attempted to beat your egg whites, otherwise…. well – let this photo be a cautionary tale.
Onto the recipe!
Ingredients (Makes 6 cupcakes)
1/2 cup self raising flour
1/3 cup caster sugar
1/4 cup buttermilk
1 tsp vanilla
3 tabsp vegetable oil
1 teabag of camomile tea
1 egg white
25g caster sugar
Plastic ipettes (I got mine off eBay)
Fondant bumblebees (tutorial here)
1. Preheat oven to 160 Celcius (fan forced). Mix all the cupcake ingredients together and beat with an electric mixer for about 5 minutes or until light. Pour into a piping bag and pipe into cupcake liners for the neatest result. Bake for 20 minutes or until cake springs back when lightly pressed.
2. Whip egg white into soft peak stage in an electric mixer. Meanwhile, heat sugar and water to 121 Celcius. Pour sugar mix into egg white while mixer is running at low speed and then turn up to high speed. Continue to whip for another 5 minutes or until cool.
3. To decorate, watch the video tutorial I made here.
If you wanted to know what my photography set up was, here it is! Just the usual settings – 60mm 2.8f shot with a Canon 7D and edited with Lightroom 4.
I used to bake 8 inch cakes. I then baked 6 inch cakes because we didn’t need so much cake. I took it a step further and decided to bake a 4 inch cake because let’s face it – two girls experiencing the sad slowdown of metabolism in their late 20s do not need to eat any more than what’s absolutely necessary.
Broke out my trusty chocolate cake recipe and decided to go with a coffee flavoured buttercream. I was extremely pleased with how the flavours turned out – a nice balance of chocolate and coffee with just the right amount of moistness.
Then came the decoration dilemma.
I tried to pipe swags and failed miserably – I’m still not quite talented enough for that sort of thing. I then tried to pipe cornelli lace and failed miserably on that front too!
Things were getting desperate. After more brainstorming I decided on a walnut border at the bottom. And then it hit me – I’ll have a squirrel holding a walnut as the cake topper!
Squirrel walnut silhouette
Once again, I apologise for my extremely non step-by-step series of photographs of this cake. I just can’t remember to stop at every step to take a photograph!
Squirrel Coffee Walnut Cake Recipe
The recipe used in this cake has been outlined in my previous post, Caramel Spiral Cupcakes. It makes 2 rounds of 6 inch cakes, enough to complete a layered 6 inch cake.
250g butter, softened
250g icing sugar
1 packet instant coffee
- Dissolve instant coffee in 3 tablespoons of boiling water and leave to come to room temperature.
- Cream butter and sugar together until pale in colour and increased in volume. Add instant coffee solution into batter slowly, mixing until well incorporated.
Squirrel template (click link to download)
Plastic piping bag
- Melt chocolate (my favourite technique explained here).
- Placed melted chocolate into piping bag and snip a very small hole at the top.
- Place squirrel template under waxed paper. Pipe squirrel outline and then flood entire area.
- Press a piece of walnut into the squirrel’s hands before the chocolate sets and leave until fully hardened. Peel off wax paper carefully and leave to set.
- Fill cake with buttercream and cover completely.
- Press walnuts into the bottom of the cake to form a border.
- Place squirrel on top of cake – squirrel should be able to stand on its own. If not, prop up with a walnut.
I hope you enjoyed this project as much as I did making it. I thought the cake turned out quite well and it’s a simple technique that can be applied by anyone.
P/S: I’m obsessed with Instagram at the moment, admittedly a little late to the bandwagon but better late than never, apparently! If you’re interested in random photos from my daily life as well as my projects click here.
I have always been intrigued by sugar work, and recently I decided to make some cupcakes with caramelized walnut spiral toppers.
I make chocolate cupcakes on a fairly regular basis. I have been experimenting with a few recipes and I have finally come up with a fairly simple recipe that does not require milk. Milk is not a staple ingredient in my household so I find it irksome to have to go out and buy a carton and end up pouring the remainder down the sink 2 weeks later because nobody drinks it.
Anyway, I had a lot of fun making these – not too time consuming but quite striking in appearance. Recipe has been divided into 3 parts – the cupcake, chocolate buttercream and the walnut caramel spirals.
Caramel Spiral Cupcakes
(makes 12-16 cupcakes or 1 6 inch cake)
125g dark chocolate, chopped
140g brown sugar
100g butter, room temperature
140g brown sugar
180g self raising flour
10g cocoa powder
- Preheat oven to 160°C (fan forced).
- Combine all ingredients from List A in a microwave safe bowl and cook in 30 second intervals until ingredients are melted, stirring in between each interval. Mixture may look like it has split slightly but that is okay. Set aside.
- Working off the ingredients from List B, cream butter and sugar in a food processor until light and fluffy.
- Add eggs one at a time, beating and scraping the sides of the bowl down between each addition.
- Pour warm mixture prepared from List A into the bowl and mix. Add self-raising flour and cocoa powder and mix until well combined. Mixture will be fairly runny.
- Spoon into cupcake liners and bake for about 20 minutes or until skewer comes out clean when pierced through the middle of the cupcake. Leave to cool completely before decorating.
150g butter, softened
150g icing sugar
50g dark chocolate, melted (my favourite method for melting chocolate outlined here)
- Cream butter and sugar together in mixer until light and fluffy.
- Pour melted chocolate in and mix until well incorporated.
Caramelized Walnut Spirals
Ingredients and Equipment
Toothpicks or skewers
Cylindrical rod (I used my sharpening steel but you can use anything from whisk or spoon handles – whatever you can find in your kitchen)
Cooking oil spray
- Attach walnuts to toothpicks.
- Spray some cooking oil onto cylindrical rod to facilitate easy removal of spirals.
- Pour sugar and water into a small pot and heat, swirling the pot around gently every so often. Once it turns a lovely caramel colour, turn off the heat.
- Leave to cool for a while, checking intermittently by dipping the a walnut into the mixture and lifting it out. Caramel is ready to be spun when a thick thread of caramel drips off the walnut rather than small drops. This may take some experimenting.
- Lift walnut out and wrap the caramel strand around the cylindrical rod in a spiral around the rod. Slip rod off and place walnut on a silicone mat to cool.
- Repeat with other walnuts. If caramel hardens too much during the process, reheat gently until it softens again.
Notes: Caramel is extremely hot so always be careful. This method takes a little practice but once proficient it can be very rewarding. Also, these decorations are extremely sensitive to humidity – they are best prepared 2-3 hours before serving.
My first true authentic experience of fortune cookies was in San Francisco about 2-3 years ago, where I saw them being made in a small store in Chinatown. I bought a bag of them and had the joy of multiple fortunes (mainly proverbs rather than actual predictions). Since then, I have made paper fortune cookies for dinner parties but that’s about it.
Pyramid pattern prototypes – waves, cornelli lace. I decided on a geometric pattern in the end.
As you can probably tell from my projects, I enjoy lattice work. I wanted to make lattice pyramids – for no real particular reason other than the pleasure of making them. Initially, I had planned to make pyramids that housed nuts in them, but during my experiments I realised that nuts were too heavy, my pyramids just fell apart. Then it came to me – paper is light, right? I’ll make chocolate fortune pyramids! The perfect after dinner snack – I’ll even pop a mint leaf in there. They will be after dinner chocolate mint fortune lattice pyramids!
Recipe below – the hardest part of this project is probably the waiting for the chocolate to set over the multiple stages and consequently, the multiple stages of reheating chocolate that’s been sitting in the piping bag. Other than that, it’s pretty straightforward!
Chocolate Fortune Pyramids
Ingredients and Materials
50g chocolate, melted (for tips on melting chocolate, read this article)
Pyramid template (click to download)
Waxed paper for piping chocolate
Plastic disposable piping bag
Strips of paper with fortunes written
- Print template and place under waxed paper.
- Place melted chocolate into piping bag and snip a very small hole off the top. Pipe according to the guidelines on the template. Leave to dry.
- Peel pieces off waxed paper carefully and assemble into pyramids by first stacking the first two together with a prop to support them and piping a stripe of chocolate at the seam to join them. Then, do the same for the other side. Pop the entire piping bag with chocolate into the microwave whenever it starts to firm up for 10 seconds to melt it down again.
- Place fortunes and mint leaves into the pyramid and finally, attach the bottom the same way as the sides.
Note: If you are using coverture chocolate, chocolate must be in temper for this project. Compound chocolate will not require tempering.
Hope you enjoy making them! Also, the quote in the photograph is one of my favourites – it reminds me that in everything, one has to start somewhere. Even if it is just a single step.